I’ve been running this site since 1996 so I have yet to have the privilege of covering a Stanley Cup Final. Years of hoping and waiting have finally ended, and here we are with the Canucks in the finals for the 3rd time in their 40 year history. It’s been an exhausting playoffs and it seems like forever since they started. The NHL’s brilliant plan to wait so long to start the final haven’t helped but here we sit on the verge of the biggest playoff series in Canucks history.
So here we have it, our last preview of the playoffs, as we take a look at the Canucks and Bruins, for all the marbles.
If the NHL wanted two of the best teams in the NHL, they certainly got it. That said the two teams are built very differently. Vancouver built on depth and speed and the flexibility to play multiple styles. The Bruins are built on toughness, hard work and solid defense. The Canucks have proven over the course of the regular season and in the playoffs that they can play any style you want to, and they attempt to dictate what style their opponents play as well. Can the Bruins play multiple styles and adapt to a faster Western Conference? They did in the only meeting between the two clubs this year, leaving Rogers Arena with a 3-1 win.
The keys to the series:
The Canucks are the favourites in the series and with good reason. We all know they ran away with the President’s Trophy and have been picked by many to win it all. To beat Boston, the Canucks are going to have to use their speed to make Boston’s defenders chase them. Puck movement, getting to open spaces quickly and efficiently will be crucial to Vancouver’s success.
The defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be assigned to contain the Sedin twins who returned to form against the Sharks. The Bruins have strong penalty killing led by Chara and goaltender Tim Thomas and if the Canucks are to be successful their five on five play has to be better than it was against San Jose where they did most of their damage on the power play. They have to generate more shots at even strength, more quality chances, and get Tim Thomas moving in the net.
If the series becomes a parade to the penalty box the Canucks chances are likely increased, as long as that parade includes both teams. The Bruins power play has been brutal in the playoffs and that’s being kind. The Canucks however have been very effective.
For Boston to win they need to control the Sedin line. The twins struggled to find space against Chicago’s Seabrook and Keith and Nashville’s Weber and Suter. They thrived against the Sharks who don’t have a defensive pairing of the ilk of Chara and Seidenberg. But the Bruins will also need to pay attention to Ryan Kesler, who will have used the lengthy break to get as close to 100% as possible and who almost single handedly led the Canucks against Nashville. Kesler may revert to a defensive role again, concentrating on shutting down the Bruins big line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton. But the Bruins roll four lines consistently, and the Canucks may be forced to do the same if they want to keep fresh legs out there. With Vancouver’s fourth line a revolving door, Alain Vigneault may have to find a trio he can stick with and give them more minutes. That will require relying on some youth, particularly if Manny Malhotra can’t get the green light to play.
Both teams sport pests that will attempt to get under the oppositions skin. The Canucks Torres and Lappiere will counter Boston’s Brad Marchand.
The biggest battle however will be between two Vezina finalists in Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. In three career starts against Vancouver, Thomas has allowed just one goal. Not a large body of work, but it does indicate what impact Thomas can have in a seven game series. Luongo has been solid after a speed bump against the Hawks and despite some untimely goals at times has played a huge role in the success of his team. His performance in game 5 against San Jose was one of his best ever.
Both teams will attempt to get traffic in front of the net and the Bruins have the bigger bodies to do just that. The Canucks defense will have to be at their best to allow Luongo to see the puck as much as possible. The Bruins will have to contend mostly with Kesler and Burrows who will see a lot of Mr. Chara and will have to pay the price. The Canucks have generated fourteen goals from their defence to Boston’s eight and whatever team can get their back end involved will have a great advantage.
If you’re into stats, here is a nice little package compiled by James Mirtle at the Globe & Mail. By the numbers this could be an incredible final and a very competitive one. It could go down the wire but for some reason I just have a gut feeling the Canucks are a team of destiny. They have been the best team in the league almost from start to finish. They have demonstrated they can play any style they need to and in my opinion they are deeper than the Bruins.
The Bruins will put up a tough fight and the games will be close. But I think the Canucks find a way to win this series in six games and win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and what an incredible end to an amazing 40th anniversary season that would be.